Email Rich Templates come to CiviCRM

01 March 2016

Well, ok, not quite but I’m hoping that anyone who’s used CiviMail and message templates in anger will relate to the need for change and how CiviMail can become an asset rather than the elephant in the room.

So let’s start at the beginning, Beatrice donates time to ACME Incorporated Chairty Arm also known as “Cheese For All”. She’s a marketing person and would really like to start putting together some engaging email content for Cheese For All, who made the right decision with both Beatrice and CiviCRM. She’s used Mailchimp in the past and has an expectation of what a mailing tool should allow her to do, so she walks in on Monday morning, ready to make a difference to Cheese for All, armed with her hot breakfast and a chocolate bar for the tough times. She quickly gets to grips with groups, the concept of mailing and gets stuck in, encouraged by the word “template” that's thrown around in CiviCRM. After digging around for 30 minutes, she soon realises that a template is as far removed from the “template builder” she’d have used in Mailchimp or any other mass mailing tool, and in fact she probably needs a degree in CSS, HTML and Responsive theming to ever get it right. Soon she’s out of chocolate, frustrated and pulls the trigger on the mailchimp civicrm extension. Suddenly she’s feeling a lot better, able to send out the emails she needs and everything's handled beautifully in Mailchimp. CiviMail loses another user.

Sound Familiar? Maybe its taken more than a day's investment but I’m sure all the users of CiviMail have faced the exact same issues, below are the key ones that have been identified both by ourselves and the community at large.

The embedded HTML editor in CiviCRM is affected by the styling being applied to CiviCRM, so when you send the content that started to look like what you wanted, actually it looks different on the recipient's device. This is very annoying and almost impossible to fix without preparing your content outside of CiviCRM for testing and the pasting back in when ready.
You’ve spent sums of money having templates designed for layout but the user who actually edits the content can end up breaking it very easily. For example how many times have you tried to get the paragraph to appear in the right place, using the backspace to remove whitespace, only to accidently delete a column or row and throw out the entire newsletter? Irritating and very difficult to get right.
Placing images into the templates is like trying to fix a square block into a round hole. Yes, it can be done, but you’ll probably need to change the shape of the square block to match the hole before you get it right!
Templates are pretty rigid. Once one’s been setup you can change the text and images but its very difficult for an end user to add more sections to it or move things around.
These are the key ones, there are I’m sure 100s more but, even for our use of CiviCRM, we struggle with these.

Along comes Mosaico, what’s mosaico?

###Mosaico is a Template-Driven Email Builder The features and the complexity of the editor (and the flexibility given to the user) are based on the template itself and not hardcoded in the editor interface. This means that potentially anyone could convert his template in order to work with Mosaico.

Great news, it’s open source and it does exactly what we want it to do and it should help fix a bunch of the issues we have with “templates” within CiviCRM. After much drilling, polishing, cutting and gluing back together we managed to get Mosaico working within CiviCRM and our Alpha extension can be found here in our Git Repository.

Please take a look at this video, which demonstrates the extension in action, hopefully it’ll answer some of the questions you have an help determine if the approach we’re taking is the right one.

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